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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Earth Science Bulletin (WGA)


Earth Science Bulletin
Vol. 15 (1982), No. 1. (Annual), Pages 143b-144

Abstract: A Movie of the Development of the Ertsberg Copper Deposit in Irian Jaya, Indonesia

Del Flint1

Wyoming Geological Association: 1982 Luncheon Meetings Casper, Wyoming: Abstracts of Papers

The Conquest of Copper Mountain is the dramatic story of a geologist’s dream come true: the discovery and subsequent development of the largest outcrop of base metal in the world.

In 1960, Forbes Wilson, in charge of a world-wide mineral exploration program for Freeport Minerals Company, masterminded an overland expedition into the rugged and remote peaks of Irian Jaya (then Western New Guinea), Indonesia. His objective was to locate a unique geologic feature — a huge black knob of ore known as the Ertsberg, first sighted by a small group of Dutch climbers some twenty-four years before.

In touch with the outside world only by primitive jungle radio and the occasional parachute delivery of supplies, Forbes Wilson and his party trekked for seventeen days across almost inaccessible terrain to an altitude of 12,000 ft, a journey that took the gifted geologist to the limits of human endurance and revealed to him an unforgettable country whose extraordinary landscape, exotic vegetation and simple tribal society he records here in vivid detail. The results of his expedition were exhilarating: measured and sampled, the Ertsberg proved to be the world’s largest above-ground outcrop of copper ore.

Forbes Wilson’s vision and determination brought Freeport back to Indonesia in 1967 to meet the monumental challenge of the Ertsberg. A 63-mile access road was carved through the forbidding landscape; tunnels were driven through the middle of two mountains; the world’s largest tramwavs were built and longest slurry pipeline assembled — in what the trade press called “Freeport’s Mission Impossible,” the company succeeded, in five years, in bringing a sophisticated mining operation to the totally isolated Indonesian highlands, and in drawing together the civilizations of Far East and West.

Acknowledgments and Associated Footnotes

1 Del Flint: Freeport Exploration Co.

© Wyoming Geological Association, 2015